Managing Your Freelancer

Forrest ReadingIn an effort to provide consistency within the freelance market, it is only fair to provide potential clients with some insight into managing their freelance contractors. By its very name, freelancing implies a level of “freedom” in comparison to the average 8:00 am to 5:00 pm traditional style job. As such, it is important to understand that as a client, you may or may not be that contractor’s only client. It is also important to understand that not all contractors are created equal.

If you have worked with freelancers before, then you have probably run across that “flighty” freelancer. The one that operates as a free-spirit, never to be tied down by the confines of structure…or a due date. Personally, I have always wondered how these freelancers manage to make a decent living. As a client, you would most likely be wondering when and if you will ever get a finished product.

Free-spirit freelancers may be able to do good work and even provide you with a great finished product. The question is, can you count on that? Are you willing to risk the implications of a free-spirit for a freelancer?

The choice is yours. The majority of professional freelancers require a set of guidelines to work with. The more experienced the freelancer, the more stringent the guidelines are likely to be. Here are a few examples of what most freelancers require in order to be productive, efficient, and effective in their work:

  • A clear, defined outline of the project and your expectation of the result
  • A time-frame for production
  • Regular communication
  • Regular feedback
  • A clear contract that outlines not only how much the freelance contractor will be paid, but when they will be paid, along with how and what the payment is based upon
  • Is there a non-disclosure agreement involved and if so, who is providing it
  • Who the freelancer will be working with, including all contact information, job title, who they report to, and what their contribution to the project will be
  • Who the freelancer is ultimately responsible to, including contact information, job title, and what their contribution to the project will be
  • To whom does the contractor submit issues of concern
  • What to do with the remaining documents that were used to perform and complete the project

Every contract is different. There is truly no “written in stone” method to working with your freelance contractor. For a client that is new to working with freelancers and freelance contractors, it will be more advantageous to work with someone that has experience. Of course, you are probably going to pay a higher rate for a more experienced freelancer. This stands to reason as the experienced freelancer has a reputation to draw upon and will be able to guide you through the process.

For those of you who have already ventured into the world of freelance contractors, then you may be comfortable enough to hire someone new to the industry. As you are probably already aware, just because your potential contractor is new to freelancing, does not necessarily mean that they are inexperienced in what it is that they do. Every freelance contractor had their very first freelance job.

Hiring a freelancer is very similar to hiring a traditional employee, with the exception that they should come with a portfolio that evidences the caliber of their work. Even a new freelancer, if they are truly dedicated to crafting a freelance career, will have created a portfolio of examples of the work that they can do.

Frankly, much of my own portfolio is a display of my own personal work, rather than that of a client. This is due, in large part, to privacy issues. Many clients that I have worked with and continue to work with, require an NDA. Privacy and security is a huge part of a freelance contractor’s world, not to mention the business world as a whole.

In essence, when you are working with a freelance contractor, be clear in what it is you desire from them. Be prepared for and remain diligent in your communication and feedback. You don’t have to speak daily, but you should not go two weeks without some type of communication taking place. Be sure the rest of your team is on the same page as you and your contractor. If your contractor is receiving conflicted message from your team, then you will lose your contractor.

If you are hiring a freelance contractor for a long-term assignment, then be prepared to sign a contract that clearly defines what happens if you or the contractor desires to terminate the contract prior to completion. Remember, a professional freelancer’s financial stability relies upon how much work is coming in and out of the door. If you fail to perform the contract as directed, then that freelancer is left scrambling to fill the financial gap you have left them. The same must be considered for you if your contractor pulls out before finishing the job.

As a potential client seeking a freelance contractor, there is really no need to be leery, just be diligent. At the very least, put in as much time and research as you would if you were hiring this person as an employee. Be sure they are who they say they are. Remember, you are opening up your business, to some degree, to a total stranger that you will not be seeing on a daily basis, and, for all intent purposes, will be working on their own, unsupervised by you. Better to err on the side of caution then regret the decision later.

One last thing I want to mention, reputation is a two way street. Freelancers have their own “grapevine.” This means that if you are not an honorable client, then the word will spread. Just as you will give a poor review if your freelance contractor was not up to par, the same will be done to you. It is very important to ensure that all parties understand every part of the contract before moving forward.

I live by this saying by Theodore Roosevelt, ““If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”